Sometimes it becomes necessary to walk away from a negotiation. When faced with mutually exclusive goals or hostile opposition, the best move can be to leave the table. Knowing when to walk away from a negotiation is an important part of principled negotiations, and part of preparing for a negotiation is finding your best alternative to a negotiated agreement.
Unlike a "bottom line", which only sets a limit on a negotiation, your BATNA provides alternatives. It is the safety net in place if negotiations collapse or an ideal outcome is not achievable. In this way, your BATNA (and that of your fellow negotiators) provides a floor for the negotiation, but does not enforce it. If the other negotiator has a bottom line that is less preferable than your BATNA, you can always walk away, if you choose.
A prepared negotiator can leverage their BATNA into a better outcome by threatening to let the negotiation collapse. So long as their best alternative is no worse than the other side’s bottom line, this party can safely withhold cooperation. While this may not always be the best course of action (there are often relationship and time costs to failed negotiations), it is a source of negotiating power.
As an important component of negotiation preparation, finding your best alternative to negotiated agreement may take some work, but will pay off in the end, even if it is never used.
Generate a set of actions that you could take if no negotiation is reached.
Develop the more promising actions into tangible plans.
Evaluate the likely results of these plans.
Select the plan with the best result.
What this looks like in practice:
Remember: it is important to be prepared for negotiations, but a strong is only one component. A graphic organizer, like a spider map, is a great way to effectively compress the process by quickly producing and communicating creative solutions.
In this example, a local widget startup considers its alternatives if they can’t renew their current manufacturing contract.
Let’s see how BATNAs affect a negotiation. In the following negotiating salary example, both negotiators are thinking about their BATNA, guessing the BATNA of the other participant, and trying to strengthen their own position. Chris currently makes $3500 a month, but would like a raise. Her boss, Vishal, is willing to give Chris a raise because she is a strong employee, but due to budget constraints, Vishal would like to minimize the increase.